Food Security:

Preparations for the 1996 World Food Summit

NSIAD-97-44: Published: Nov 7, 1996. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed U.S. preparations for the 1996 World Food Summit, focusing on: (1) the origin, purpose, and financing of the summit; (2) the process used by member countries of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to prepare and negotiate a policy declaration and plan of action for approval by world leaders or their representatives; (3) the U.S. approach to the summit; (4) key issues that have arisen in the negotiations; and (5) the role and views of nongovernmental organizations (NGO).

GAO found that: (1) in 1994, the FAO Director General consulted with world leaders and others about whether it would be useful to hold a global conference on world food security issues; (2) according to U.S. officials, initially there was considerable skepticism on the part of the United States and a number of other countries; (3) however, consensus eventually emerged on the desirability of renewing the 1974 commitment to achieve world food security and to agree upon effective policies and strategies for dealing with the root causes of hunger and malnutrition; (4) the primary products of the summit are to be: (a) a policy declaration containing seven major commitments for advancing global food security, approved by heads of state or their representatives; and (b) a plan of action setting forth objectives and actions needed to implement the policy commitments; (5) the FAO Secretariat prepared early drafts of the policy statement and plan, but FAO member countries found the drafts unacceptable and took over the drafting process through the Committee on World Food Security (CFS); (6) to facilitate reaching agreement, each member country government was encouraged to prepare its own position paper on food security issues; (7) U.S. preparations for the summit have been led by a high-level interagency working group consisting of 13 agencies; (8) the interagency group produced a U.S. government position paper on food security issues and collaborated with Canadian officials in drafting a joint "North America" position paper; (9) according to the United States, the primary responsibility for reducing food insecurity rests with each country, and it is critical that all countries adopt policies that promote self-reliance and facilitate food security at all levels, including food availability, access, and utilization; (10) furthermore, the most important prerequisite for improving food security within a country is the development and implementation of an appropriate policy framework; and (11) other key U.S. views include the following: (a) all countries should promote trade because self-sufficiency in food is not sustainable in many countries; (b) governments should facilitate investments in infrastructure, invest in basic health and sanitary services, and develop institutions that promote sustainable development in a democratic and nondiscriminatory manner; (c) overreliance on resource transfers from developed to developing countries is detrimental to self-reliance and food security; (d) the most progress in food security is achieved by nations that have pursued policy reform, macroeconomic stabilization, and structural adjustments; and (e) the United States plans to concentrate its assistance on countries whose national policies enhance food security.

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